Owen & Mia Prophets Of Gloom & Doom On Barbados’ Economy?

Were this duel between Owen Arthur and Mia Mottley not so dangerous and embarrassing for Barbados, it would be entertaining and even hilarious for those of us who enjoy good political drama.

The staged photo last weekend featured the two contenders for Barbados Labour Party leadership in the foreground and Dame Billie Miller in the shadows. Even when they attempted to do the right thing, they messed up! From the Barbados Labour Party’s perspective at this point, Dame Billie Miller sandwiched between Arthur and Mottley is akin to a rose among two thorns. Their behaviour of late is so deplorable that it would make the average Labour Party supporter wonder whether it would not be better to dump them both as leadership contenders and go back for the much more credible and polished Dame Billie. Surely, she would refocus and re-energize the languishing party.

No cooked-up photograph is going to convince Barbadians that the battle lines are no longer in existence. They are clearly drawn!

How do you explain less than 60 hours following publication of that photo, the two heavyweight contenders mustering their troops and heading to separate corners of the island for warm-up sparring matches? The other seven BLP Parliamentarians were clearly confused by this spectacle, as while three went to the Pine with Arthur, two journeyed to St. James with Mottley and two stood out of sight completely.

And what did they do at these meetings? They spent their time each trying to out-forecast the other on how catastrophic economic conditions in Barbados would become. One predicts unemployment will rise to 15 per cent, the other says it will climb closer to 20 per cent. In the meantime, actual and official statistics put joblessness back in single digits in the last quarter measured.

In other words, they are so romanticising these self-fulfilling prophecies of total destruction for Barbados, that they have not taken time out to stop and discover that the gloom and doom that they are predicting is not happening. Their predictions are more outlandish now, towards the tail-end of the economic storm, than it was in the middle of rapture.

I even saw their mouthpiece publication with a gem of an article the other day in which they went around the country and interviewed persons about the impact of the price of gasoline. They are asking persons how the price of gasoline in February, 2010 is impacting their pockets, totally oblivious of the fact that the price today is almost one dollar per gallon cheaper than it was 18 months ago. Again, they did not ask the question when the price was sky- high, but now that it is on its way down they rush outside to help paint the doomsday image that the Barbados Labour Party is trying to create. Pioneers of the fourth estate in Barbados must be rolling in their graves!

Persons would object if I referred to it all as ‘a conspiracy of negativism’, but how else can one explain the rhetoric of leading opposition spokespersons and the editorial focus of their preferred mouthpiece?

Here you have a situation in Barbados today where 25 years ago the International Monetary Fund and, to a lesser extent the World Bank, were Public Enemy Number one for Barbadians, in terms of their perceived draconian policies for small island states. People shuddered at the very mention of their name. Now today, the Government of Barbados, in association with leading intellectual and private sector players, has come up with a medium-term fiscal and development strategy that even the IMF and World Bank concede is a stroke of genius and can actually bring about a painless turnaround of economic fortunes.

These intellects to whom I referred are not Democratic Labour Party card bearing members. They are outstanding and upstanding sons and daughters of Barbados. They are arguably the best and most respected cadre of economic thinkers and business practitioners this country has produced in three decades. They sat with officials of Government and crafted a home-grown fiscal and development strategy for Barbados and circulated it to relevant agencies and individuals for comment.

The local private sector has endorsed the document. So too has the trade union movement. The IMF and World Bank have also signed on and independent thinkers “on the hill” have said it’s an approach worthy of commendation. The only two opposing voices are, you guessed it, Arthur and Mottley!

So consumed are they with their individual battle for BLP supremacy that they appear to have lost their ability for straight and rational thought. How else would they have found themselves in 2010, so on the wrong side of public opinion?

Can you imagine the situation where today in Barbados, the Government, private sector, trade union movement, economic society, Central Bank, Caribbean Development Bank, World Bank and International Monetary Fund are all on one side, supportive, to varying degrees of what the Government is doing, and the only two voices of dissent are those of the former leader of the BLP and his successor? How could that party have found itself in such a state? It all has to do with the battle for party supremacy!

They each have to convince their party that they are the better person to lead party and country at this time. So to make their case, they find themselves creating the most dreadful, frightening and catastrophic images of economic life and economic reality in Barbados today. The battle now is to see who can out-predict and out-forecast the other. So whatever gloom and doom one of them can conceive, the other lashes back three days later with an even gloomier forecast. In storm language, one is predicting a category four economic hurricane for Barbados and the other insists it will be a category five. Yet, in the meantime, the competent and genuine forecasters are cautiously suggesting that the worse of the bad weather has passed and that persons can gradually begin removing their shutters. This is the awful state of opposition politics in Barbados today.

Mottley, in particular, simply does not know when to stop. Here it is that all Barbadians wished for and had demanded meaningful action in relation to the Barbados Water Authority. Even Arthur is on record as saying that something had to be done about the management structure at BWA. Yet, the Prime Minister announces a significant measure in that regard, and Mottley’s knee-jerk reaction is to question whether “the Act” provides for it. Who cares? If the Act does not provide for it, then the Government will change the Act. It is as simple as that. But you do not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Come on!

This is the type of fuzzy strategic politics that the Barbados Labour Party is practising today. There is a price that parties in opposition pay for such irresponsible behaviour. It is called total rejection at the polls next time around!


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